Abrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 4915 posts, RR: 55 Posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 28204 times:
Feedback always appreciated.
Trip Report: 040
Flight Category: J-ISR (See Report End)
SDT/SAT/Delay: 1255/1520/02:25 hrs
Flight: Korean Air Lines KE 702, 783 miles
Seat: Business (“Prestige”), 20A – Upper Deck
I > Background:
Ok, I am back! After taking a sabbatical from trip reports for 5 months, here is the first installation from a series of trip reports. Mid-August to mid-November 2007 saw the craziest of my travel plans. 69 flights totalling 175,028 kms on 35 airlines, visiting 49 airports in 34 countries in all 6 continents. And, here is the best part … all of them were part of a 4 month break from life … pure vacation, and pure food for the mind, body, and soul. Together, they mounted to 21/2 round-the-worlds that was truly insane. As usual, all long haul flights were on Business or First Class; short haul was on Economy Class.
I have seen relatively few TR’s on KE’s J class product, and have actually never read a review of their J class on a shorter regional flight on A.Net. So here is hoping to fill that void. The reason for this flight was that it formed part of a convoluted routing to get from Yap (in FSM) to Auckland (New Zealand). While they are not super far apart, lack of connectivity meant that my routing ended up being YAP-GUM-NRT-ICN-AKL. Thank God, the flying was in J. It would have been far more painful sitting at the back.
II > Pre-Flight:
a) Before Airport:
Korean Air provides an excellent hub-spoke system from their beautiful and efficient hub at Incheon airport in the outskirts of Seoul. ICN is a far cry from those of us who remember SEL. Though, I must admit that getting to/from ICN is so much worse than SEL.
Given the complicated routing, booking for this segment was done through my super awesome travel agent in Caracas. She is an angel and my life here in CCS would be a logistical nightmare without her! I was surprisingly issued a paper ticket (despite all being e-ticket stations, and the entire itinerary being on Skyteam) which was viewable online on the websites of CO, but not on KE. I called KE’s toll-free number in the U.S. and procured ideal seat selections with ease.
b) At Airport:
I don’t understand those who find transiting through NRT to be difficult. I find it extremely pleasant, and the Japanese are A+ hosts. I can go on about their professionalism and sense of service with panache. After arriving from CO’s flight ex-GUM, we proceeded through quick security to re-enter the terminal 1 at Narita.
Since I had some time to kill, I went to the rather modest KE lounge and chilled. While the lounge is nothing special, it gives you spectacular views of the tarmac … and that for any airline enthusiast is far more appealing than some food platter . So I settled down on a window seat and watched airplanes go by while nibbling on a motley assortment of snacks, and alternating on a bizarre cocktail of café and tomato juice. Free wireless internet, and several computer terminals were also useful to check some emails and catch up on the “real world”.
Boarding was announced inside the lounge and I proceeded to gate 27 for boarding. There was already a long line … but I noticed a separate one for J and P passengers. It should be noted that the line (see picture) is deceiving as the load for this 744 was rather light.
Upon boarding, the lead FA motioned to her colleague to walk me upstairs and I followed a beautiful Korean stewardess to the top of the 744. It does not matter how many times I have flown … the upper deck continues to fascinate me with its air of exclusivity. Load was super light – probably 30% in J. The upper deck had only 4 other passengers. It speaks volumes on the traditional importance of the Japanese market to Korean carriers as they send a refurbished J product to NRT, but use old-style J for the long brutal flight to AKL that was to follow.
Airport - External:
Airport - Internal:
(Departure board, T1 – N)
Scenes of the tarmac:
(Looks even smaller when contrasted with NRT’s mostly wide-body ops)
(…and the better performing rival)
(Shiny JL Cargo)
(CO 763 that brought me in from GUM)
(NWA off to SEA)
(MH to KLIA)
(Another JL Cargo)
(Random collection of stuff I ate as I plane spotted)
(YAY….I fly Business Class)
a) Service Schedule + Impressions:
Cold refreshing towels upon embarkation and a choice of drink. Post take-off a beverage service accompanied by a complete meal service.
b) Aircraft + Seats:
I love 744’s, and this was particular one was kept spanking clean throughout. KE recently went through a product overhaul introducing striking crew uniforms (they really do look great), and a new Business Class product. However, I wish they had gone full-flat instead of angular lie-flat. While it is probably one of the more comfortable angular flat seats I have encountered, it still does not beat the feeling of lying on a full-flat bed seat. However, it is to be noted that the overall space on KE is much better than comparable products on AF or NW. Even in recline mode, there was ample legroom and my knees did not get “stuck” on the top of the seat opening. Recline position is also better than most angular-flat seat. It sort of felt like the SQ Raffles seat – just more fresh.
(Photo Courtesy: Alex Pan)
Views from Aircraft:
(Another ICN bound flight)
(TK to IST)
(PR to MNL. 744 justified by the tons of migrant laborers Pinoys provide in Japan)
Seat Recline + Angle View:
(Upper Deck of refurbished 744 J)
(Gotta love the windows and storage space of the 744 upper deck)
c) Meal + Beverage:
Service commenced with a choice of drinks while on the ground. For those unfamiliar with KE service, they provide an excellent guava juice that I highly recommend. It is actually one of my favourite reasons (I know, super random) to fly Korean. After take-off, a pre-“light meal” beverage service commenced where I chose to have a rather stiff Bloody Mary. Now comes the interesting part … KE’s “light meal” option included basically an abridged version of its regular lunch service … just fewer options. As much as I LOVE “Bibimpap”, I really hope KE got a little more creative with their food options. I have had “Bibimpap” on 9 KE J flights this year. Korean food is so diverse and there could be so many exciting things that Korean could present. Despite the unimaginative menu, the actual “Bibimpap” as always was excellent. KE’s purser was cute when she said, “Mr. AM, your elite status with us shows you know how to make a Bibimpap I think.”
(Welcome drinks – the EXCELLENT guava juice)
(Inflight Bloody Mary)
(Oh My God … I am shocked! Its Bibimpap!)
d) Inflight Entertainment:
Korean Air’s new IFE provides over 300 hour of on-demand entertainment and has a decent mix of English and non-English films. However, I found the CHEAP head-sets normally found in Economy to be very classless and absolutely pathetic for premium passengers. I mean, I had paid a significant amount of money to receive cheap crappy head-sets. It really took away from the IFE experience. The “Morning Calm” magazine was great as usual.
(In-flight magazines, Boarding Passes, etc.)
(The absolutely unacceptable headset for a premium cabin. WTF? Why would I pay so much money and get this?)
I love the new KE uniforms, and the KE crew was great as usual. Polite, and anticipating needs, they did a good job within the short flight.
Incheon is always a delight. I was able to transfer quickly to my KE flight to AKL after using one of the KE lounges.
(Arriving @ ICN)
(ICN Lounge Shower)
V> Impressions + Scores:
KE has a lot going for it. While a lot give it sligtly unjustified criticisms on safety, it’s service standard is impeccable with some fantastic crew members. I do like their new look and think the redesigned seats and interiors are miles ahead of their old J product. Moreover, small touches like new crew uniforms accentuate a bold fresh look. However, I am disappointed with the unimaginative food options, and am flabergasted at the horrible headphones provided to J passengers. C’est la vie. I would not hesitate flying them again. However, given an airline with better seats, I would equally consider the alternatives.
Salvation From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 174 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 27407 times:
i was on the same routing as you for one of my business trips to singapore last year. I did GUM-NRT(CS), NRT-ICN (KE), and ICN-SIN (KE) and had the new J seats like you from NRT-ICN. I was impressed and had only wished for a much longer flight. As you know, my ICN-SIN was in the traditional J class seats so it was no comparison. I love transiting through ICN and find it seamless just as in NRT too.
What in the world were you doing all the way in YAP? At any rate, hope you enjoyed flying through Micronesia.
JL is currently making profit again and still undergoing to change their overall product. Also a/c changes on several important international routes are upcoming (e.g. JFK will see 77W shortly). I really hope that oneworld will be good for them!
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
Abrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 4915 posts, RR: 55 Reply 11, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 26958 times:
Thanks everyone for the great comments.
Quoting Christao17 (Reply 4): I'd have to agree with you about bibimbap getting a little repetitive. There is so much excellent Korean food so maybe offereing some other options?
= Yup. Since I first flew KE J in 1997, I have had bibimpap served each and every time. Very unimaginative, especially given the diversity of Korean cuisine (which I find overall excellent and underrated.)
= Yup. Nothing escapes A.Netters . It is indeed a 764.
Quoting SQ772 (Reply 5): Great pictures! Does KE not lay a table cloth over your table before placing your meal tray over it? Or is that not done because the flight is too short?
= I believe they have for longer flights. I have another KE review coming up.
Quoting Salvation (Reply 7): What in the world were you doing all the way in YAP? At any rate, hope you enjoyed flying through Micronesia.
= Doing nothing . I love Yap and found an island which I kinda have to myself .
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 8): JL is currently making profit again and still undergoing to change their overall product. Also a/c changes on several important international routes are upcoming (e.g. JFK will see 77W shortly). I really hope that oneworld will be good for them!
= I am sure it is. I am a fan of JL ... but its still not as good as a performer as NH.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 10): - It appears to me that the person in the window seat would have an issue exiting their seat if the isle passenger was was fully reclined.
= Actually, I think its relatively easy as the seat is narrow. One can get up and just go over the persons legs.
LH459 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 886 posts, RR: 1 Reply 15, posted (5 years 2 months 1 week 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 26106 times:
Very enjoyable report! And I was pleased to spot the tube of chili paste served with your bibimbap--seems that hasn't changed since I last flew KE 9 years ago!
I'm looking forward to the ICN-AKL sector...
"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is temporary; the evil it does is permanent" - Ghandi
Aaron747 From Japan, joined Aug 2003, 7635 posts, RR: 28 Reply 18, posted (5 years 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 24026 times:
Quoting B747forever (Reply 16):
KE seems not as bad as you often hear. But the main thing that "scare" away pax is their safety history. Will it always follow KE??
MAybe only for people outside the region. Most Asian travelers are aware that KE has gone to great lengths to improve their safety. Walking the halls of ICN and noticing how many foreign crew members they have now certainly reinforces that.
If you need someone to blame / throw a rock in the air / you'll hit someone guilty